GRANDMA'S CARAMEL ROLLS

Happy Holidays!!

In our family, rather than race to the tree on Christmas morning, we always raced to the kitchen table where we knew Grandma's caramel rolls would be waiting for us when we woke up. Probably because we knew our stockings would still be there after we indulged, while there was only one center caramel roll. And once it was gone, it was gone until next year! I am a very sensory-oriented person: smells and tastes register memories instantly and perhaps more intensely than anything else for me. And smelling and tasting these caramel rolls is like an instant time travel to Christmas at Grandma's. You, of course, may not time travel to my grandmother's house upon eating these, but I'm sure you'll be impressed and want to start a tradition of your own with them!


Grandma's caramel rolls

sweet dough

2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 packages of active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
7 to 7 1/2 cups flour, divided (2 cups, then 5 to 5 1/2 cups)
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar

caramel sauce

1 1/2 sticks butter
2 cups cane brown sugar
1/2 cup white Karo syrup
Pecans, if desired

Combine the lukewarm milk, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl and let stand for five minutes. Add eggs, butter, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix well. Then slowly add 5 to 5 1/2 cups more flour until the dough is well formed and doesn't stick to the bowl. Place in a large, greased bowl and cover with a greased plate or greased plastic wrap. Let rise until double, about an hour. Punch down, then let rise again until doubled, also about an hour. Make the caramel sauce while the bread is rising by melting 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a sauce pan and then adding the brown sugar and white karo syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Take off the heat and pour into four greased cake pans. Add pecans to the pans, if desired. Let cool while the dough finishes rising. After the second rising, turn out onto a large, floured surface. Divide dough in half, and roll each half into a ~12X16 rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll up and cut into 3/4" pieces. Place on top of cooled caramel sauce. Let rise again for about 25 minutes and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Turn over onto a plate and serve warm- they are amazing warm. You can also turn out onto a piece of aluminum foil and wrap up for easy storage. Enjoy!!






CARNITAS TACOS WITH STEWED BLACK BEANS

How is it already approaching the end of December?! I cannot believe how quickly this fall has flown by. I think the unseasonable weather has got us all confused. We actually set a record here in Baltimore last weekend with highs in the seventies! As much as I wince at the thought of global warming being responsible for these warm days, I do have to say I've been appreciating them. I've actually been surprised to find how much these warms days have been affecting what I've been eating. Usually by December I've switched to a diet consisting of mostly everything besides fresh fruits and vegetables. But this year, I'm still really into fresh farmer's market finds! It probably helps that the farmer's market near my place runs until mid-December, unlike the farmer's market I used to go to in my old neighborhood. So, I'm still cooking and eating things that I once only thought of as summer favorites. Don't tacos just make you think of warm, bright, sunny days? That's what I think of at least. So maybe it's the weather, or maybe I just needed a taco kick:)


carnitas tacos with stewed black beans

3 1/2 to 4 pound pork shoulder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup salsa
1 jalapeño, sliced

1 red pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced

1 can black beans, mostly drained but a little liquid reserved
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste if you like it spicy!)
1/2 teaspoon salt

corn tortillas, sour cream, and avocado for serving

Place the pork shoulder in the crockpot. Mix the spices together in a small bowl and then rub the mixture all over the pork shoulder. Pour the salsa over the seasoned meat, add the sliced jalapeño, and turn the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. The meat is ready when it is easily shredded with a fork. Once ready, remove the meat from the crockpot and shred with two forks. Remove the liquid from the crockpot and place in the refrigerator for a couple hours or overnight so that the fat can separate out. Scoop off the top layer of fat and discard. Return the remaining liquid (though, it will likely be a little jello-y) to a saucepan and simmer for about 20-30 minutes while you prepare the tacos. Meanwhile, add the can of beans to another small sauce pan with the cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and salt. Let simmer while you prepare the peppers and onions. Sauté the sliced peppers and onions over medium heat until nicely browned, about 15 minutes. Layer the meat, sauce, beans, and peppers and onions over a tortilla and top with sour cream and avocado (and cheese if you want!) to serve!






CHORIZO, SWEET POTATO, and RED POTATO BREAKFAST HASH

I am a breakfast person. Not necessarily the pancakes and syrup on Sunday type, but definitely the breakfast is the most important meal of the day type. I'm usually pretty habitual (and some may say boring) with my daily breakfasts: oatmeal it is! Plain, too! No nuts or berries or cinnamon or brown sugar. Every once in a while I'll jazz it up with one of those ingredients, but for some reason I just always enjoy it most when it's plain (but with a little drizzle of soy milk, of course!). Oatmeal has been my go-to breakfast for years... and now that I think of it, it's been my go-to for so many years that I should probably just replace "years" with "my entire life" haha. But apparently I have a hidden interest in experimenting with breakfast lately, given the fact that the last two recipes I've posted have also been breakfast recipes! Hopefully that's not breakfast overload?! At least there's some variation since I started with a savory cast iron skillet quiche and then moved to a sweet pumpkin bread french toast and now I'm back on the savory side of things with this amazing hash! I guess I just hadn't thought of how breakfast has just as many creative kitchen possibilities as any other meal of the day until now. This hash takes a bit of prep work, but it is very easy to make and is a perfect winter weekend breakfast. It's even good enough to make me switch up my faithful Monday-Friday oatmeal routine, and that's saying something!


chorizo, sweet potato, and red potato breakfast hash

1 green pepper
1 onion
2 sweet potatoes
10 1 1/2" red potatoes
~3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 package chorizo
1-2 eggs/person (this recipe should serve 4)
avocado for serving

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Roughly dice the onion and the green pepper into 1/2" pieces and toss on a cookie sheet with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Roast for 10 minutes, flipping half way. Meanwhile, slice the sweet potato into 1" chunks and quarter the red potatoes. Combine the potatoes in a large bowl, toss the potatoes with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and sea salt. When the green peppers and onions are done, take them out of the oven and add to a serving bowl. Spread the potatoes over two cookie sheets and bake for 25 minutes, flipping half way. The potatoes should be nicely browned on multiple sides and easily pierced with a fork when done. While the potatoes are roasting, cook the chorizo according to package directions. I left it on the stove probably 3 minutes longer than suggested just to brown it a little bit. Once everything is done roasting/browning, make a sunny side up egg by cracking an egg over a greased skillet over medium heat. Turn down to low and let cook until the tops of the whites are set but the yolk is still runny, about 3-5 minutes. Now you can either mix everything together or plate it separately, but either way, definitely serve with a fresh avocado! You can also wrap it up in a corn tortilla for a breakfast burrito if you want! Here come lotssss of pictures. It was so beautiful, I had to!













PUMPKIN BREAD FRENCH TOAST

It's that time of year when everything featured at the grocery store has one special ingredient: pumpkin! From pumpkin granola to pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin is the main event. But what do you do when you buy the large 32 oz. can of pumpkin because it's on sale for the same price as the small can but your pumpkin pie recipe only calls for a 16 oz. can? Or what about when you have a pumpkin craving you need to satisfy before Thanksgiving rolls around? Or when you want some pumpkin for breakfast?! This recipe can help you solve all of those problems: pumpkin bread french toast.

The inspiration actually came from my housemate. I got a text from her a couple of Sundays ago asking if we had cloves and I immediately crossed my fingers that she was going to make pumpkin bread. Sure enough, I came home to the wonderful smell of perfectly spiced pumpkin bread! The loaf was amazing- so, so good. I think I ate 3/4 of it... In exchange for the amazing bread, I decided to surprise my housemate with some breakfast the next morning! What did I make her? Pumpkin bread french toast. Yes, pumpkin bread french toast. It might not be a real thing.. but it should be. Imagine the most perfect loaf of pumpkin bread and then the most perfect french toast. Now combine them. That's how good this is! Hey, you can go for just the pumpkin bread if that's what you're feeling, but this french toast is truly amazing.  It takes all of two minutes once you've got your loaf baked too because all of the flavor is already in the bread, so it's nice and easy even on a weekday morning!


pumpkin bread french toast

pumpkin bread:

3 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3 cups sugar
1 cup oil
4 eggs
1 16 ounce can pumpkin
2/3 cup water

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a bowl. Then combine the sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin, and water in another and mix to combine. Slowly add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir to combine. Pour into two prepared loaf pans and bake for 40-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes before removing from the pans and then serve warm or make into french toast once completely cooled!





pumpkin bread french toast:

1 egg/4 slices of toast
2 tablespoons of milk
Butter to coat the pan

Heat a non-stick, large pan over medium heat. Beat the egg with the milk in a wide bowl. Slice the pumpkin bread into 1/2"-3/4" slices and soak each side in the egg mixture. Melt some butter in the pan and place the soaked pumpkin bread in the pan. Let sizzle until the egg has set and begun to brown on the side touching the pan, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and let sit for another 2 minutes. Remove from pan, drizzle with syrup, and serve!





COSTA MESA BRIDAL SHOWER

If I could live indefinitely inside a party, let the record show, it would be this one. Why? Because every gorgeous detail - from the colorful cocktail bar to the mini glittered donuts - is basically my dream. Hosted by my friend's two awesome maid of honors, this boho-chic shower made me want to 1. Run home and make dozens and dozens of minnie donuts and 2. Shower my home with colorful flowers, glassware and pillows... etc. And as far as events go, this one wins. Here are some snaps from the event. (Taken by a slew of her bridesmaids and shared with me today).


























































































































































































































































































These party favors tho....

CAST IRON SKILLET MUSHROOM, GOAT CHEESE, AND ARUGALA QUICHE

I know I've already posted a favorite quiche recipe, but I'm excited about this new one that is a little lighter and, in my opinion, more fitting for fall! It's super easy and really attractive when baked in a cast iron skillet like I did! Just a note, I used an 8" skillet, which was great for serving 4 people. If you have a larger skillet and want to serve more people, double the recipe and you should be in good shape!


cast iron skillet mushroom, goat cheese, and arugula quiche

Your favorite pie crust recipe, enough for one crust
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup arugula
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 thyme
1/8 t nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup ricotta

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll out your pie crust to the size of your cast iron skillet. Place the mushrooms, arugula, and goat cheese on the bottom of the crust. Combine the remaining ingredients in a standing mixer and beat on medium until frothy. Pour over the vegetables and cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until just set. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. I topped mine with a bed of arugula and some extra goat cheese and would recommend it!








HONEY, RICOTTA, and PEAR TART WITH AN ALMOND CRUST

While Caroline is getting 80s and sun in LA today, we're in the 50s and surrounded by falling leaves in Baltimore. As much as I love 80s and sun, this might be the first fall I've really appreciated the season. It helps that it's a lot longer than the fall I was used to in the Midwest! But I think I am also just enjoying the change. Change is a crazy thing. I think one of the greatest pieces of advice I was given was to learn to accept change as a constant. It's a hard lesson to learn, but I think it's a great goal to strive towards. Even my yoga instructor yesterday was talking about it. She said that uncertainty is just an opportunity for an adventure. Isn't that a beautiful way to look at it? The same way we look at the golden and crimson leaves on the trees- would we really admire them as we do if they were there year round? I don't think so:) I think we get mesmerized by the fact that each day we walk outside, the tree across the street from our front door looks different. So why can't we look at each day as a great, new, and beautiful adventure? We can, we just have to try a little harder until it becomes the practice. Just like the fall comes every year, so does change. We just have to learn to expect it the same way we expect the leaves to start falling come autumn! Anyways, the whole point of this is that I've finally welcomed fall and I'm super excited to let the autumn baking begin!

Here's a great recipe for a fine dessert that's not too rich or sweet overall, but has a buttery almond crust and caramelized pear slices on top to perfectly satisfy a sweet-tooth craving after a nice meal. It's adapted from a New York Times Cooking recipe and ready to impress!







honey, ricotta, and pear tart with an almond crust

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup almonds
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest from one lemon
1/2 cup butter, cold
1 egg, slightly beaten

1 3/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
1 egg white
1 tablespoon strong honey
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1 red D'Anjou pear
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar

First, prepare the tart crust. Add 1/4 cup flour and the almonds to a food processor and process until fine. Add the rest of the flour, powdered sugar, salt, and lemon zest and pulse to combine. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process to a fine crumble. Add the egg and pulse until the dough comes together. Press into a disk, wrap with plastic, and chill for an hour (or overnight). 

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425. Slice the pear into thin slices, coat with olive oil and sugar, and roast on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, flipping half-way. If your slices aren't caramelized yet, you can put them under the broiler for a few minutes until they look nicely roasted.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Roll out the dough to 1/8" thickness and line a 16" tart pan. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes. Make the filling while the crust is baking by combining the mascarpone, sugar, and cinnamon in a standing mixer. Beat on medium for a couple minutes until fluffy. Then add the ricotta, egg, egg white, honey, and salt. Mix to combine, then pour over the crust, place the caramelized pears on top, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20-30 minutes until the filling is just set in the center. Let cool at room temperature and then serve with honey drizzled on top!






AUTUMN STEMS






































The temp might still be in the mid-80s in Los Angeles, but we are finally feeling all the fall vibes on the west coast. We were super inspired by all of the fun Halloween decor around the city and therefore, decided that we couldn't get rid of our carved pumpkin for at least another week. Luckily a hollowed out pumpkin also substitutes for a perfect vase for your stems. And depending on the size of your pumpkin, you may be able to fit an entire bouquet inside... creating the ultimate Fall-inspired centerpiece.

























































We loved these bronze stems paired with a full bouquet of greenery. We didn't mind the delicious smell of the eucalyptus one bit!

After about a week we opted to move our stems into our recently carved pumpkin. Keeping both the pumpkin and the flowers outside (in cooler weather) will help both last a bit longer and will leave your neighbors feeling oh-so envious!


FARMERS MARKET PEPPER SALAD

Summer isn't over in California! Caroline and I got to have some fun a couple of weeks ago at the Torrance farmers market! We were on our way out of the market when we tried a salad out for sample. Oh my goodness was it delicious! So fresh, so healthy, so simple! It was almost hard to believe that a salad could taste so good! We ended up buying all of the ingredients from the farmer and going home to make it for ourselves for dinner! Since there are no greens, this will keep well overnight for lunch tomorrow, too!


easy summer pepper salad

1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2 sweet Italian peppers
2 sweet Hungarian peppers
2 jalapeño peppers
2 tomatoes
2 handfuls cilantro leaves, chopped
1 red onion (if desired)
3 lemons
3 teaspoons kosher salt

Chop all peppers (except the jalapeños- you can thinly slice those!) and tomatoes into 1 1/2-inch squares and combine with the cilantro in a large bowl. If you'd like onions, slice these into bite size pieces as well. Squeeze the lemons and toss the pepper mix with lemons and kosher salt. Let sit at room temperature for an hour or so until the tomatoes release their juices and the peppers can marinade in the lemon juice. Serve or store in the refrigerator overnight and bring back to room temperature before serving!